Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

The EU comes up with a comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

Adelina Marini, October 27, 2009

At the final stage before it becomes clear whether the EU will start functioning on the basis of a new institutional treaty - the Lisbon one, the Union has demonstrated readiness to stop dealing with itself only. A proof for this is the decision to develop a comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, accompanied by an Action Plan. The document has been discussed by the Eu foreign ministers at their General Affairs and External Relations Council in Luxembourg today.

In their conclusions the EU foreign ministers point out that the international community has made a huge commitment in Afghanistan and is stepping up its efforts in Pakistan. The aim of the new strategy is the EU to guarantee itself stability, security and prosperity in a region which is beyond the boundaries of its neighbourhood. But the European politicians have come to realise that the most serious global threats like illegal drug trafficking, trans border crime and the weapons of mass destruction have a direct impact in Europe.

With its new strategy the EU will take a long-term commitment to both Afghanistan and Pakistan but not with military means. The approach would be the same as with the other foreign policies of the Union - building of administrative capacity, imposing the rule of law, building of local and regional structures, helping the democratic and market mechanisms, reinforcement of the civil society and the media.

The EU is spending each year nearly 1 bn euro annually for Afghanistan and some 300 mn euro for Pakistan. The aid is directed to various civil, political and other activities for the development of Afghanistan. This aid is totally independent from the efforts separate member states put in purely military aspect by taking part in the ISAF. The Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt whose country now presides the EU will propose the Commission to increase significantly the budget for Afghanistan and Pakistan for the period 2011-2013.

In the beginning of next week the High Representative for EU's foreign policy and security Javier Solana and Carl Bildt will go to Washington to present the strategy. At their Council today and yesterday the foreign ministers of the Union have agreed that the EU will work in Afghanistan and Pakistan closely with its international partners, especially with the US.

At a press conference after the Council in Luxembourg Mr. Bildt has explained that for now the EU has no intention to take a leading role in both countries but it will focus its efforts in helping the dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the regional players like India, China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, the Middle East states and Central Asian states. As part of its new commitment Brussels will send in Kabul another special representative of the EU, separate from the Head of the European Commission Delegation in the Afghan capital.

The decision of the EU to boost its commitment in Afghanistan and Pakistan comes in a moment when the US is experiencing serious problems there. President Barack Obama, who proposed new initiatives to tackle with the slow political process in Afghanistan, was heavily criticised both outside in within the US. His critics insist that sending more troops in Afghanistan will not lead to a successful end of the war, started by George Bush months after 9/11. Furthermore, Mr. Obama is forced right now to lead 2 quite hard wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) in an atmosphere of severe economic crisis, exhaustion from the lack of progress in these 2 wars as well as against the background of numerous other indirect factors.

And if so far the main ally of Washington in both wars was Great Britain + (with much less efforts) countries like Bulgaria, Poland, Spain etc., now the untied approach of the EU could prove the so much needed catalyst that would bring results. Because the fact is that the US is not capable of doing in parallel on the security issues in Afghanistan, leading a guerrilla war with the Taleban and other military organisations and, in the meantime, to work for the institutional and democratic building of the country. Especially after the failure of Pakistan and its transformation into a constant source of tension and instability.